This woman entrepreneur started up in the communications field with Rs 5,000, now clocks Rs 2 Cr in revenue
On a rainy day 10 years ago, in the course of a conversation with three of her friends over pizza, Komal Lath scribbled down a few notes for an entrepreneurial venture on tissues. One thing led to another, and that’s howwas born.
She says the initial eureka moment was the easy part. What followed next was a set of challenges ranging from explaining the company’s name and how to pronounce it, to why do clients need PR, among many others.
“I gave myself three months to figure whether I could do it and deal with the anxiety of not getting a stable paycheck at the end of every month. There was a lot of hard work – from changing five trains a day to attend meetings across the city and saving costs by walking to office whenever possible to working out of a pigeon hole where my team played “elbow-nics” with each other – the initial days involved all of this and more,” she says.
“I learnt many new things along the way – a bit of accounting, tons of negotiation skills, the art of selling, team management, HR skills, and most importantly, vasooli, all in one as the days went by,” she recalls.
But with the belief “that we are nothing but a sum total of our experiences”, Komal plodded on.
Tute Consult started off as a Public Relations agency, but over the years has pivoted to be a Marketing Communications setup. Its services currently range from marketing communications strategy and public relations to digital media and influencer marketing. It also constructs bespoke experiences both on-ground and virtually for clients. In short, its USP is telling stories.
Born and raised in a traditional Mumbai-based joint family, Komal pursued her BMM, followed by a post-graduation from MICA, Ahmedabad, and recently did a short stint in anthropology form Oxford University.
Komal dabbled in multiple disciplines - events, market research, film marketing, and even tele-marketing (three days on the behest of a friend) to know finally that her interest was in the communications and storytelling space.
A deep dive into business
Bitten by the proverbial “entrepreneurial bug” and buoyed by the evolving startup culture during the time, Komal started Tute Consult in 2010 with just Rs 5,000.
“The media landscape had also started evolving rapidly with digital becoming mainstream. Back in the day (or even now) you could just change the logos of the companies in decks and you wouldn’t know the difference between one agency or client strategy to another because they were all the same. The trigger was to be able to create a future-ready organisation where not only do you learn the nuances of new-age media and traditional PR, but also deep dive into the business of the brand to make a meaningful impact,” she says.
Tute Consult’s first client was ‘Catwalk’ shoes.
“I was connected to the owner via a friend’s reference and they never had a PR agency before us. I had worked very hard on the proposition and was really looking forward to the meeting. When we met, I opened the presentation, and he skipped straight to the last commercials slide, hopped back to the first three-four slides and paused. He was expressionless and I had jitters for those five-odd minutes. Those five minutes felt like five hours and all he said was, “we are on”."
Her second client was ESBEDA, and 15 minutes into the meeting, the owner had 12 post-dated cheques in her hand. Komal says, she finally knew she was onto something special and right.
Tute Consult currently works with clients across wellness, retail, events, hospitality, and FMCG. Some of the big names include United Spirits, Red Bull, Pixi, CaratLane, Ajmal, Marriott, India Circus (Godrej), Metro Shoes, and WOW Skin Science, among others.
Communication and COVID-19
Komal believes in following the IAA model - be impactful, agile, and accountable at all times, and this has worked in her favour during the pandemic as well.
“Communications has been the soul food for any business and the marketing playbook would be rightly read as BC (before Corona), DC (during Corona), and AC (after Corona). As an agile and lean team, we have been able to shape client and consumer mindsets by understanding media consumption (whether WhatsApp to print) and ways it can be used to convey the right messaging on our clients’ behalf,” she says.
However, business-wise, markets have been slow, and Komal foresees an uptake for the digital side and new media onslaught.
“With that in mind, we are upskilling ourselves, simultaneous with digital transformation, and keeping our eyes open for newer trends in communications,” she adds.
After starting Tute at the age of 25 and having catered to over 350 clients, Komal says every client brief still gives her the tingles and every win and new campaign approval sets the morale and spirits high.
In between these, she has also been battling challenges like the perception that PR professionals can’t advise and execute paid and owned media.
“A big challenge I foresee is the definition of ‘marketer’ and the common notion of equating marketing to ideating. The business accountability seems to have come down considerably over the years, and that shows when people with two-odd years of social media experience are revered as ‘marketing opinion leaders’,” she says.
The challenge is to mediate the gap between traditional PR practitioners who need to upskill in order to unlock the impact of new-age media, and the new breed of social media opinion leaders who have unknowingly alienated themselves from traditional credible and quality sources,” she says.
Komal also believes being a woman entrepreneur is challenging. She recalls an incident when a CEO of a company asked her to call her boss as his team was ready. “Of course, he profusely apologised later but these prejudices run deep.”
“On the professional front, I want to scale new heights for women and communications as an industry, motivate, and mentor more people. Personally, I’d like to devote more time to academics and volunteering activities (like CII Yi) and be a part of United Nations climate initiatives someday,” Komal says.